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BJP dreams big, picks up five allies in TN

Rajnath Singh at the press meet in Chennai on Thursday. (PTI)

Chennai, March 20: The BJP today finally announced its rainbow coalition in Tamil Nadu, following weeks of vexing negotiations, that will see five regional parties contesting as part of the BJP-led NDA.

BJP president Rajnath Singh at a news meet announced the alliance partners and the number of seats they would contest while state party president Pon Radhakrishnan read out the constituencies allotted to the respective constituent.

“This is a very formidable alliance which is further proof that the country is going to give a decisive mandate favouring the BJP-led NDA with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. I am confident that this alliance will win at least 25 out of the 40 seats,” Rajnath said, flanked by Vijayakanth, Anbumani Ramadoss and Vaiko.

According to the formula for the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, Vijayakanth’s DMDK will contest 14, S. Ramadoss’s PMK and the BJP eight each, Vaiko’s MDMK seven, the KDMK and the IJK one each.

In Puducherry, the BJP is backing the ruling NR Congress, which has announced its candidate for the lone seat. However, the PMK has also announced a candidate for the same.

Today’s show of strength was not without hiccups and some last-minute confusion as the noon news meet was shifted to 4pm.

One reason was the last-minute hitch as the PMK was still trying to wrest the Salem seat from the DMDK that was resisted by the Vijayakanth-led party.

Finally, Rajnath reportedly put his foot down and said the PMK could not go back after agreeing to part with Salem and had been compensated with Krishnagiri, which the BJP was keen to contest.

Since it was 1.30pm by then and the inauspicious Rahu kaalam had set in, it was decided to postpone the news meet after lunch. By then a miffed S. Ramadoss decided not to be part of it and the chair with his name was moved back.

Only his son Anbumani Ramadoss participated in the news meet along with party president G.K. Mani. After the seat share and constituencies were announced, a BJP functionary circulated an agreement that was signed by all the top leaders of the six parties.

In the final analysis, the state BJP appears to have come out poorly with fewer winnable seats while Vijayakanth has wrested some of the stronger seats for his party. The BJP’s chances look bright only in three seats — Chennai South, Kanyakumari and Coimbatore.

A state BJP leader admitted that the party had given up two strong seats — Tirupur to the DMDK and Krishnagiri to the PMK — to placate these two allies. “We may win fewer seats in Tamil Nadu but the alliance is more important. Our Tamil allies wanted winnable seats as they can win only in Tamil Nadu whereas the BJP can win across the country. We accepted their logic and took some weak seats like Thanjavur, Sivaganga and Nilgiris,” he explained.

While the alliance looks strong on paper, it remains to be seen how it will work at the ground level considering the antipathy between the DMDK and the PMK, which was visible at today’s press meet where Anbumani Ramadoss and Vijayakanth did not share any bonhomie.

“The DMDK voters may not vote for PMK candidates and vice-versa. We need to address this mismatch as otherwise it could cost the alliance in north Tamil Nadu,” a BJP office-bearer admitted.

The BJP felt it was important to be surrounded by allies, which was in contrast to the Congress that has been left forlorn. “Only the presence of allies will help maximise the Modi factor in Tamil Nadu. The fight now will be between the NDA and the AIADMK while the DMK, Congress and the Left will not be counted at all,” said senior BJP leader L. Ganesan.